Crashing down a 25’ cliff, ripping open her thigh to the bone, and having a hot shot Ivy League surgeon sew her back together has not deterred Hannah in the least from returning to the scene of her epic fall. Two years ago, she plummeted down into the San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito, California, thankfully to be rescued by our son-in-law Tip. Click here for part 1 of the blog.
A year ago, Hannah and I had planned to hike this trail when all hell broke loose. First, the Thomas Fire burned 300,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Then three weeks later the debris flow with car size boulders, whole trees, and Biblical mud roared down this canyon killing 23 people and totally reconfigured the landscape and closed the trail.
Today, fearlessly, Hannah joins me on the San Ysidro Trail to see if we can find where she fell and lay to rest any apprehensions for either of us about her fall. Fact is, I am not nervous at all. Hell, I didn’t fall down the cliff; Hannah does now hike on the inside of mountainside trails. Her momma didn’t raise no fool.
With few cars parked at the trailhead on East Valley Road, we begin hiking on a trail once a tunnel of trees that now has clear views to a creek bed strewn with massive boulders that once were high above in the coastal Santa Ynez Mountains.
Paralleling the now scrubbed and scoured reconfigured mountain creek, we are stunned to see the hammering and sawing of workers rebuilding homes on the other side. What part of deadly debris flows don’t they get!
Within a few hundred yards, we come to the staging area where two years ago a fire department ambulance waited for Hannah; she had heroically walked a mile and a half down the mountain with gashes in her leg so deep infection was an ever-present danger.
As we climb towards the scene of her fall today, we wonder if where she fell is even recognizable given the recontouring of the creek. At the one mile mark, the trail narrows, and we walk single file, climbing towards the waterfall now a mile away. Over jagged rocks, we head to the falls on a trail that is mostly intact but has been shored up in places by the Montecito Trail Foundation.
Ninety-nine per cent sure, we see the wide spot in the trail where our daughter Molly distracted our grandsons, Owen (then four and a half) and Max (nearly 3), while Tip rescued Hannah from her perch on a cliffside of sharp, angry rocks 30’ above the unforgiving creek boulders below.
Much of the area where Tip climbed horizontally to rescue Hannah is now gone, but clearly this was where Carol King had it so right for Hannah when she sang, I feel the earth move under my feet!
Hannah doesn’t flinch as we examine the area and we both count our lucky stars.
We head back to the trail (San Ysidro) from which I plummeted two years ago…feeling just slightly uneasy, but not afraid. It’s both about getting back up on the horse – and also thanking the powers that be (both the terrain and the people involved in my rescue) for bringing me back from the edge. As we hike, I find I hug the inside of the trail. Much more sensitive to “edges” since my slide – I wish Dan would be likewise. We find familiar places along the trail ~ one of our favorite trails, still ~ smiling at the memories: Tip lifting us up over a rushing brook; Tip and the boys walking three across on a wider stretch of the trail; Tip being his calm, reassuring self as he “bandaged” me (with diapers) and brought me back up the cliff; Molly and Owen running ahead for an ambulance to meet us upon our return to the trail head; walking hand-in-hand with Dan that last mile and a half after the fall; then compassion-in-action as I’m lifted into the emergency vehicle for the eventual ambulance ride I was so sure I wasn’t going to accept.
Yup, I’d rather not have taken that fall…but so much good came of it that I would otherwise have missed. I’m overcome with gratitude as Dan hikes back down the trail with me. Again, I walk hand-in-hand with him as we head for the trail head – and Home.
Pictures from two years ago and today fill in the spaces of my narrative.